Why now is the time for #FeesMustFall 2017

The Fees Must Fall movement would do itself and the country a great service to derive inspiration, in these unpredictable times, from the Latin aphorism, “carpe diem”. Mohau Bosiu explains why.

The removal of Blade Nzimande as minister of higher education and training in the latest cabinet reshuffle, and the recent resignation of his deputy Mduduzi Manana, could be the silver lining in a year which has seen a quietening of the #FeesMustFall movement.

This shift in the leadership of the ministry of higher education and training comes shortly after the conclusion of the Heher Commission, headed by Judge Jonathan Heher to report on the feasibility of fee-free higher education and training, which was scheduled to have concluded in June this year. The commission was constituted as a direct result of the heightened countrywide protests of the student movement, #FeesMustFall. The student movement, in light of the recent shift in the leadership of the ministry of higher education and training, necessarily must pose the questions:

  • How does this change affect progress on the outcomes of the Heher Commission?
  • When will the report’s conclusions and recommendations be put on the national agenda, that is, when will the president release the report and communicate his decisions on its outcomes?

The silver lining is the opportunity for the student movement to intensify its struggle – this time around, not only by shutting down universities but by going directly to the head of the matter, the presidency.

Carpe diem. Seize the day. As the road to the ruling party’s national elections conference becomes increasingly arduous, the realisable destination to elect a new government in the 2019 national elections could be even more devastating to the goals of the student movement.

When it comes to finding ways to fund education, things could get worse. All of us have seen reports about the financial difficulties in the various state owned enterprises, the disturbing news of potential raiding of the Public Investment Corporation, and the possibility that if the economy continues to spiral downwards, government might have to borrow from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

If there’s a lack of political will to respond comprehensively to the goals of the student movement now, things will only get worse. As we learned from the commission’s interim report “there was little participation by the resource-rich entities such as corporates, industry, the banking sector or organized labour, all of which might have been expected to contribute as the production of graduates and an academically prepared workforce is to their direct benefit”.

In simple terms, the message is that the corporate sector is unbothered by #FeesMustFall.
The challenge posed by the corporate sector is that the student movement must also begin to address the struggles of graduates entering the corporate sector, like the:

  • cost implications of applying for jobs and attending interviews, especially for the poorest students;
  • high cost of living and transportation;
  • burden of mandatory medical aid, provident fund and Unemployment Insurance Fund contributions; and
  • strain of adjusting to the first year of work generally.

The movement must begin to ask how it can rally the corporate sector to be part of this national issue. The struggle for fee-free education for students carries social, economic and financial implications.

In intensifying their struggle, students must also prepare for both radical and strategic bargaining. They must cast their gaze outside the university walls and attend to this matter holistically.

The time to push government into a corner, to get answers before it’s too late, is now. In doing so, the student movement could simultaneously alert and shape the attitude of the next administration towards #FeesMustFall.

To the student movement, seize the day.

Mohau Bosiu is a Communication alumnus of the Tshwane University of Technology. He writes independently and works in marketing and advertising.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect The Daily Vox’s editorial policy.

Featured image by Ra’eesa Pather